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News Brief

Nov. 20, 2023 |  By: Farah Siddiqi - Public News Service

Newly legal fentanyl testing strips help fight overdose deaths in MO

illegal drugs

By Farah Siddiqi - Public News Service

The rise in deaths involving synthetic opioids or fentanyl have overdose-prevention advocates looking for solutions across the nation.

Gov. Mike Parson recently signed a bill legalizing fentanyl test strips with hopes of lessening the death toll.

Rithvik Kondai Sr., overdose prevention coordinator for the Missouri Institute of Health, said these days it is hard to understand the trends, and fentanyl seems to be in everything.

"You think you're buying heroin but you're getting fentanyl," Kondai explained. "Now it's shifted to finding traces of it in cocaine, in meth, in MDMA, in other substances that are not opioids."

Missouri joins at least 20 other states in decriminalizing the drug-detection tool. Neighboring Kansas legalized fentanyl test strips earlier this year as well.

Kondai contended there is still more to do in the fight for overdose prevention and the government should not just stop at fentanyl test strips.

"There's now this adulterant called xylazine in the opioid supply," Kondai noted. "There are xylazine test strips available, but technically in Missouri, we wouldn't be allowed to give them out per se. Why not just take it to that next step where we can just make drug checking legal?"

Over the summer, the Biden administration announced a plan to combat the growing problem of fentanyl being laced with xylazine, an animal tranquilizer known by the slang term "tranq."

According to a report released last year by the Drug Enforcement Administration, xylazine-positive overdose deaths increased by more than 500% in the Midwest between 2020 and 2021.